There are so many reasons why Lanzarote could be your ideal holiday destination – perfect weather, perfect beaches, great food! Head to the Timanfaya National Park on the south west of the island to see a whole different side to the Canary Islands.
To begin with, take a look at the video below to witness the full drama of the park, a place which looks more like the moon than the earth.
There is nowhere else on earth like this national park. Timanfaya was formed over 300 years ago by the eruption of more than 100 volcanoes. And while there have been no eruptions since, there is still a bit of activity taking place. You’ll find the Timanfaya volcanoes are not called the “Montenas del Fuego” (the Fire Mountains) for nothing.
To understand the full drama of this extraordinary place, it’s best to take a tour because the earth is still too fragile (and too warm) in places to allow anyone to wander around unattended.
Take the bus: You can either pick one up at the car park within the Timanfaya National Park, or from any island town centre. And while the tour itself takes less than an hour, the Ruta de los Volcanoes will uncover the strange beauty of this place: Smooth and gentle lava fields will quickly morph into black jagged rocks, which in turn will change into great red slopes of long-dead mountains. It’s a real magical mystery tour and one of the best things to do in Lanzarote.
Take a hike: If you want to spend longer in Timanfaya, there are a variety of ranger-guided tours. These can take up to three hours and are reasonably strenuous, so wear proper walking boots or hiking shoes, and take a hat and plenty of water. Remember, you are quite close to the Equator, and as the day goes on it gets hotter and hotter. The best times for these walks are either early in the morning or in the late afternoon. Numbers are limited on each walk, but if you’ve ever wanted to know what it might be like to walk on the moon, this is as close as you can get to that experience.
Hire a camel: If you’re looking for a gentle stroll, with a tinge of excitement, then there are camel rides through one part of Timanfaya. And provided yours doesn’t spit or run, such a trip can be great fun.
Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to bypass the Visitor Centre at Islote de Hilario, because it explains everything you need to know about Park and provides an easy and fascinating introduction to its history. After this, your guide will then show you how the volcanoes of Timanfaya are still at work. First, he’ll throw some straw or brushwood into a hole in the ground, and it won’t be long before a fire starts and you see flames rising up. Then, he’ll throw cold water into another hole, and as you wait, a geyser of steam and hot water will suddenly erupt.
If that’s not enough drama, then the best place to end any tour is close by at the El Diablo restaurant. Here, you’ll see many of the influences of local artist César Manrique, who designed the restaurant logo (and that of the park) depicting a huge, open-air grill. (Find out more about Manrique in our page about his life and work.)
All El Diablo’s meat and fish are grilled using geothermal heat from the volcanoes hundreds of feet below. This has to be one of the biggest barbecues on earth, and whatever you choose from the menu – fish, chicken, sausages or veg – the taste will be delicious. Book well in advance to make sure you don’t miss this experience – it’s a great way to end any walk, bus tour or camel ride.
If the bus tour is too short, and the walk too long, you can still view the scenery at close quarters by visiting the Los Volcanes National Park. Here, you can wander around unsupervised and at your leisure. It’s not as dramatic as its neighbour, but it still allows you to get up close and personal with a gentler lunar landscape. There is a designated walk, which only takes about an hour. This will give you enough time to examine the soil and rocks to see if you can spot any local gemstones. Known as olivine because of its olive green colour, this gem is also called peridot, and much of the jewellery you find in the local shops is made with it.